Last weekend I had dinner with Dick Bolles, whose What Color is Your Parachute has now sold 10 million copies and is in its 39th edition. (Hey, I can dream.) It is correctly referred to as “the job hunter’s bible” — and not just because Dick was an Episcopal priest when he first self-published edition #1. Dick has spent more time thinking about career change than anyone on the planet. He thinks about it deeply and broadly, and his ideas have affected a lot of lives. The book covers a lot of territory.

Enjoying a wonderful meal with our wives at a very good restaurant, the talk was about life — about love, faith, and making choices. Since I’m another guy who spends a lot of time thinking about job change, I asked Dick a question that always circulates around my mind — What’s the biggest mistake people make when job hunting?

Dick instantly responded, “I know the answer to that question. They’re not picky enough.”

It’s about making choices. It’s about standards. How easy it is to take a job, finally, after all that hunting, simply because a company makes an offer. The relief is so great that thinking twice just doesn’t seem to be a reasonable option. Accepting an invitation to an interview you might not want or need is just as problematic — are you pursuing The Interview, or The Job? Is the job right for you, or are you chasing a hot job that will leave you burned?

Thinking twice ought to be the necessary pause before accepting any job offer or going on any interview. Have faith in your judgment — but be picky.

Dick makes no bones about the role of faith in his work. Congratulating him on the 10 millionth copy of his book shipping out the door, I said, “God bless you!”

“Oh, I’ve been blessed already,” he replied. His success genuinely surprises him — and he talks about his blessings with a glint in his eye that makes me realize I have no idea what faith really is. “I prefer winsome expressions of faith,” he went on. Attractive, engaging perspectives on God. It’s no surprise, because Dick is a pretty winsome human being — he will surprise you again and again in conversation. Dick is 81, and he revels in the gift of life, in the love of his wife, and in the success of his book. And that makes me smack my head like I just remembered something — It’s good to be alive, so don’t screw it up. Smile. Love. Share. Reach out. Go for the winsome experience — why pursue just any job? “Because it’s there,” isn’t a good enough answer.

Dick’s comments reminded me of advice offered by the famous author of westerns, Ring Lardner:

“Life is tough. Three out of three people die, so shut up and deal.”

Go for the winsome choice. Be picky, but deal already. Don’t just pick a color; drive your parachute.

Thanks for dinner, Dick.

  1. Nice post.

    It’s hard to be picky, though. Especially when you’re feeling desperate, when you need to have work or else.

    Any advice here?

  2. Flip burgers if you must, to pay the rent. But don’t start believing you’re a burger flipper.

  3. Hi Nick:

    I follow the principles of the post, but there’s a point where you can’t wait no more and you take whatever comes.
    Now I feel terrible because, I went for the job I wanted, went trough the first round of interviews until the end, final round and it was between me and other bloke. Unfortunately I lost.
    After that I felt terrible, I starting going through interviews without feeling anything for the positions. The time passed and the need for money drew me to take the first offer. I signed my contract and even though the job is not my dream job, the people, the money, and the environment are really attractive. Suddenly out of nothing it comes to my knowledge that the dream position is available again, and I’ve been asked if I want to take it.
    In my mind I am saying “YES” but the commitment I already have with the other company and my personal values are much stronger.

    I am just wondering if I made the right decision by letting this dream job go away and stick to the contract I signed…

  4. Hector,

    Try this:

    I wish you the best. It’s a good thing to have good choices.

  5. Speaking of standards…I must say it is also relative and person-specific. Just an example…Making career choices as “what colour…” suggests between “drive” and “assets” complicate things. I tend for example to have a drive for industry A and its people (say public organizations) but my skills to fit better in industry B. Choices about picky standards can be relative too. What do you think on this issue?